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343. James Gourley (William H. Herndon Interview).

[1865 — 66]

Jas Gurley

I Knew Lincoln as Early as 1834: he used to Come from New Salem afoot & get books at Stuarts & Dummers office: he was Post Master or D.P.M at that time: he used to Come to Stuart & Dummers office and tell his Stories: he once helped box a fellow up in a hogshead and roll him down — Jack Armstrong was the leader — I run a foot race in 1836 with H. B. Truett — now of California — got Lincoln to be my judge — Truett had a running Suit — Indian Style — . Lincoln felt good as I beat Truett — a boaster. Lincoln loved to see the wind out of the windy fool. Col E D Baker and I used to run foot races. I Know when Lincoln Came to this City — in 1837 — probably in May 1836. We played the old fashioned town ball — jumped — ran — fought & danced. Lincoln played town ball — he hopped well — in 3 hops he would go 40.2 on a dead level. He was a great wrestler — wrestled in the black Hawk war: his mode — method — or way — his Specialty was Side holds: he threw down all men. Lincoln was a good player — could catch a ball: he would Strip and go at it — do it well —

I heard Lincoln make a Speech in Mechanicsburg Sangamon Co in 1836. Jno Neal had a fight at the time — the roughs got on him and Lincoln jumped in and Saw fair play — We Staid for dinner at Greens close to M — drunk whiskey sweetened with honey. there — the questions discussed were internal improvements — whig principles — : he peeled _________

I heard Mr Lincoln during the Same Canvass. Early was a candidate — Lincoln skinned Dick Quinton in the Court in July 1836, I think. It was at the Court house — where the State house now Stands — . The whigs & democrats had a general quarrel then & there. N. W. Edwards drew a pistol on Achilles Morris — During the Congressional race between Jno. T. Stuart & S A Douglas they had a fight in Herndons grocery — the brick layer: they fought in a grocery: they both fought till Exhausted — grocery floor Slippery with Slop. Stuart ordered out a barrel of whiskey and wine — . I became acquainted with Douglas in 1836 when he first Came here as Register of the Land office — Douglas & I wrestled many and many a time — When Harrison White & Co run their race I was a Har—n man — Lincoln was a Clay man — Heard Douglas & Lincoln Speak on the questions of the day many times: heard Lincoln & Calhoun in their great Tariff debate in the Court house — a rented room in Hoffman's row — N.W. Corner of public Square: This debate lasted 3 or 4 nights or more. Lincoln's arguments were profound — Calhoun was an able man — No mistake — one of the ablest men that ever made Stump Speeches in Ills — He came nearer of whipping Lincoln in debate than


Douglas did — . These men — Douglas — Calhoun & Lincoln — have often heard from 1834 to 1840 —

Lincoln was a great temperance man during the time of the Washingtonians — he would go a foot 5 or ten miles to talk. One of his Speeches was printed in the Journal He was a good temperance man — he Scarcely Ever drank. I got Lincoln to join the Sons of temperance about 1854. He joined & never appeared in it again. If Lincoln Ever drank it was as a medicine I think. He took no part in in the great temperance move in 18__ when an act of the Legislature was passed and Submitted to the People.

In 1840 he Spoke frequently to Harrison Club: he advocated the Tarriff — Bank — Internal improvements by the Gen Government — & the distribution of the proceeds of the Sale of the public land and particularly & generally all whig measures. Lincoln was for Clay up to the time of Gen Taylors race in 1848. He was for Clay in the Harrison — Van Buren — White Webster & Co — He and I once went to Petersburg he to make a Speech against Peter Cartwright in his Congression race — 1846 — . He skinned Peter & Erastus Wright — the abolition (Note this — remember the Wright law Suit)

One day Lincoln was gone to Chicago to attend to the Rock Island bridge Case. While he was gone — say in 1857 — Mrs Lincoln & myself formed a conspiracy to take off the roff and raise the house. Lincoln Came home — Saw his house — and Said — Stranger do you Know where Lincoln lives: he used to live here". He Scolded his wife for running him in debt. Again — when Lincoln was gone once I chose her — Mrs L — a Carriage — a fine one — Lincoln Complained, but all to no purpose. Again when Lincoln was away from home Mrs Lincoln had a bad girl living with her: the boys & men used to Come to her house in Ls absence and scare her: She was crying & wailing one night — Called me and said — "Mr Gourly — Come — do Come & Stay with me all night — you Can Sleep in the bed with Bob and I. I don't want boys: they'd go to Sleep to Soon & won't & can't watch — Come do — Sleep with Robt. & myself —

I lived next door neighbor to Lincoln 19 years: Knew him & his family relations well: he used to Come to our house with Slippers on — one Suspender & and an old pair of pants — Come for milk — our room was low & he Said Jim — you have to lift your loft a little higher: I Can't stand in it well". He used to say to my wife that little people had Some advantages: it did not take quite So much wood & wool to make their house & Clothes.

Lincoln never planted any any trees — : he did plant Some rose bushes once in front of his house: he planted no apple trees, cherry trees — pear trees, grapevines


Shade trees and Such like things — he did not it seems Care for Such things

He once — for a year or So had a garden & worked in it: he Kept his own horse — fed & curried it — fed & milked his own Cow: he Sawed his own wood generally when at home. He loved his Horse well.

Lincoln & his wife got along tolerably well, unless Mrs L got the devil in her: Lincoln paid no attention — would pick up one of his Children & walked off — would laugh at her — pay no Earthly attention to her when in that wild furious Condition. I don't think that Mrs Lincon was as bad a woman as She is represented: She was a good friend of mine. She always Said that if her husband had Staid at home as he ought to, that She could love him better: She is no prostitute — a good woman, She dared me once or twice to Kiss her, as I thought — refused then — wouldn't now.

Lincoln would take his Children and would walk out on the Rail way out in the Country — would talk to them — Explain things Carefully — particularly. He was Kind — tender and affectionate to his children — very — very — . Lincoln I think had no dog — had Cats — Bob used to harness Cats — Bob & my boy and used to harness up my dog & they would take him & go into the woods and get nuts —

Mrs & Mr Lincoln were good neighbors. Lincoln was the best man I ever Knew: he gave my boy a position in the Navy. Lincoln was a great reader: he read the Bible.

As to Mr Lincoln I do not think he Ever had a Change of heart — belonged to no religious Sects — was religious in his way — not as others generally. Had he Ever had a Change of heart — religiously Speaking, he would have told me about it: he Couldn't have neglected: he Couldn't have avided it.

In 1844 I used to play ball with Abe Lincoln — E D Baker — &c others: the game was Called fives — Striking a ball with our hands against a wall that Served as ally. In 1860 Lincoln & myself played ball — this game —

Lincoln went home from the Journal Office directly after his nomination for Presdt: he was agitated — turned pale — trembled. We — a good many — Soon went up to See him at his house. Lincoln played ball the day before his nomination — probably he played Some in the morning — Early

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3880 — 87; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:124 — 30



1. H&W (1889) gives the date as February 9, 1866 (590).

2. John T. Stuart and Henry E. Dummer, law partners from 1833 to 1837.

3. Possibly a reference to someone Lincoln put down in debate.

4. Possibly Archer G. Herndon's tavern, the Indian Queen, or its successor; the bricklayer is not identified.

5. Probably the series of debates in March 1844

6. AL's temperance address was delivered on Washington's birthday, February 22, 1842, and printed in the Sangamo Journal on March 25. CW 1:271 — 79.

7. The prohibitory liquor law was presented to the voters in 1855.

8. The 1836 Union ticket.

9. Erastus Wright is the pension agent AL "skinned" on the stand for withholding money from the widow of a revolutionary soldier. See §242, note 4.

10. Hurd vs. Rock Island Bridge Co., the so-called Effie Afton case, in 1857.

11. The enlargement of AL's home began in the spring of 1856.